President Obama and the wind energy industry are rallying to make a final push for the extension of key clean energy incentives before Congress breaks for its summer recess.
On Tuesday, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal and Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese met with 14 companies in the wind energy supply chain to discuss the importance of extending the production tax credit (PTC) for wind power.
Meanwhile, the president on Thursday will visit wind turbine blade composites manufacturer TPI Composites as part of his call to Congress to extend both the PTC and the Section 48C clean energy manufacturing tax credit. The company is based in Newton, Iowa, a town slammed with thousands of layoffs after its major employer, Maytag, was acquired by Whirlpool in 2006.
TPI Composites now employs around 700 people, but the company's CEO, Steve Lockard, says those jobs are dependent upon a PTC renewal.
On a press call hosted by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) last month, Lockard said the 18-month turnaround time required for each wind project means the company is already seeing a lack of demand due to policy uncertainty and may face layoffs if the PTC is not extended.
"Every month of delay will mean additional manufacturing job losses in the U.S., and action is really an urgent need at this time," Lockard said.
Indeed, the president has made jobs the centerpiece of his push for clean energy incentives. According to AWEA, letting the PTC expire would lead to 75,000 lost jobs.
But the economic impact does not end there. The industry has repeatedly stressed that clean energy incentives at the federal level are necessary to trigger billions of dollars in private investment.
At a Senate Committee on Energy Natural Resources hearing last week, Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Mark Udall, D-Colo. – among others – stressed the importance of clean energy support at the federal level in ensuring $15 billion a year in private investment does not disappear.
Obama is also encouraging Congress to create a program to leverage private investment. According to a statement from the White House, the Section 48C program instituted under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was oversubscribed by more than 3 to 1, meaning over $5 billion in projects did not get funding.
Adding another $5 billion in credits would support at least another $17 billion in direct investment in clean energy manufacturing facilities, the White House says.
Despite the setbacks already seen due to PTC and market uncertainty, the president's support gives the wind industry reason to be cautiously optimistic about tax-credit extensions and the future of the sector.
"With both President Obama and members of Congress covering the whole political spectrum supporting the wind tax credit to keep U.S. manufacturing jobs, it shows there's a real chance of getting it done in time to keep this homegrown industry growing in America," said AWEA CEO Denise Bode, who spoke at the White House meeting.
"Extending the PTC already has broad bipartisan support, but Congress and the president need to act," she added. "Let us finish the job of creating this industry."